When I found myself hoping that my college-bound granddaughter will not "come out" as Jewish, I realized I had time-traveled back to the Germany of the 1930s -- and I wasn't singing "Willkommen."
My fears were only heightened this week as I watched the film Crossing the Line 2 at its Boston premiere. The film details the spreading infection of anti-Israel (read anti-Semitic) activity on American college campuses. Guest of honor and speaker at the showing was the noble and beautiful Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who said that watching the film was like "having a bucket of ice water" dumped on her head.
In Crossing the Line 2 (the second film on the same subject by the producers, Jerusalem U/Step Up For Israel) we see raucous, scary mobs of students (and obvious non-students) in kafiyahs and hijabs, bellowing and bullhorning "We support the intifada!" "F-- you, Zionist scum!" Nazi pigs!" and more. We see "die-ins," apartheid walls, guerrilla theater, mock eviction notices, and other pro-Palestinian antics. And, by contrast, we meet Jewish students facing, and even facing down, the obscenities and bullying. Perhaps they were screened by the producers at central casting, but they all seem fresh-faced, sensible, and mannerly.
But their task is formidable. For instance, Becky Sebo of Ohio University is shown attempting to read a statement in support of Israel to the student senate. Appallingly, in the midst of her remarks, the campus police arrive and she and three others are arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Sarah Abonyi of the University of New Mexico correctly identifies the sources of the hatred: the group called Students for Justice in Palestine, and most important, faculty, particularly tenured faculty. As Aviva Slomich, a CAMERA campus director, says, "Students come and go, but professors stay."
Thus, we can expect this hatred to continue until tenured faculty retire, or until that utopian day when teachers teach subjects rather than propaganda. Abolishing classes in race, class, and gender would be a start. But, as the film demonstrates, faculty, particularly in Middle East studies, tend to be leftist and inherently anti-Israel. For example, take (please) Professor Denis Sullivan of Northeastern University, who says, "Hamas doesn't recognize Israel. So what?" Or the infamous Joseph Assad of Columbia University, who says, "Israel is one of the worst offenders worldwide; it is today the only racist country -- by law." As Professor Robert Wistrich laments, "It is a disaster for academia."
And from the professorial word to action by gullible students is but a short step. Roz Rothstein, director of the group Stand With Us, points out that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have become more organized and focused. Working within the system, they gather under the umbrella of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement, or BDS. (In her talk after the film, Hirsi Ali refers to BDS as Bully, Deceive, and Sabotage, and asks "Where is the BDS movement against Boko Haram?") The proponents of BDS, like the venomous Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah, stress that BDS is not a political strategy, it is about eliminating Israel. Barghouti says quite frankly, "The BDS movement opposes any Jewish state in any part of Palestine." The rebarbative Norman Finkelstein says, "We must be honest. We want to abolish Israel."
And speaking of Jewish quislings, though a topic not dealt with in the film, we must unfortunately reckon with the fact that Jews -- students and faculty -- are sometimes in league with the enemy. David Horowitz of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, has initiated a drive to counter the insidious anti-Jewish trend. (JewHatredonCampus.org) His people placed posters at UCLA (one of Horowitz's designated Top Ten schools for Jew- hatred) linking SJP with campus anti-Semitic activities. "One poster depicted the body of a lifeless Palestinian civilian being dragged through the streets of Gaza by Hamas operatives while tethered to a motorcycle," reports Ari Lieberman. And there were other posters, equally dramatic, all headlining SJP with the hashtag #JewHaters. Shortly thereafter, this notice appeared in the UCLA's Daily Bruin:
We would like to condemn the posters which were posted on campus this weekend labeling members of Students for Justice in Palestine as 'Jew Haters.' While we have in the past condemned speakers sponsored by SJP for their anti-Semitic rhetoric and believe the inappropriate singling out of Israel to be discriminatory, we wholeheartedly condemn these actions and the malicious intent behind them. This sort of hostility and offensive language have no place on a university campus, especially one as diverse as UCLA.
Among those endorsing this notice were J Street U, Bruins for Israel, Hillel, and Chabad. And some of their members even volunteered to remove the posters.
UCLA, you will remember, is the site of the Rachel Beyda incident. In February, Rachel, a candidate for the judicial board of Student Council, was asked by Council members, "Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community…how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?" This little inquisition coincided with UCLA's annual Israel Apartheid Week.
But let us return to the film, and at the same time let's look at the word "dialogue," in its current usage both a noun and a verb. This amorphous term is repeated often in the film by the Jewish students -- though mocked by SJP. Even after the film, even after Hirsi Ali's eloquent remarks, a panel of three activist Jewish students could summarize their suggestions for action essentially with the advice to speak up and to "dialogue."
However, one young man dragged in the recent event at the University of Oklahoma, in which frat boys sang a ditty with "hateful racist words." Our Jewish student did not call for dialogue in this case; rather, he praised the "moral responsibility" of Oklahoma University's president for shutting down the frat and expelling some of the frat boys. Such absurd moral equivalence suggests that this generation of Jewish activists may have to slough off their liberal chrysalis before they can do battle effectively.
"Crossing the Line" ends on an upbeat note, with paeans to Israel and crowds of young people dancing and waving Israeli flags. Becky Sebo tells Jewish students not to despair, and to remember "We're here for you."
And yet, and yet: I still have hopes for my granddaughter. Maybe she'll party her way through college the way my generation did.